Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: Steve Parry at the Pack Horse, Friday October 24th, 2008

A late decision to go out into the demi-monde of God's Little Acre, to the edge of the Artist's Quarter and Mr Marmion's Friday night acoustic extravaganza at the Pack. Tonight featuring an old buddy, Steve Parry, a solo singer whom I have not heard for some time. With the audience he seemed to have brought en masse from another watering hole we frequent to give him a cushion of support, this proved to be a very good night. Steve was always a distinctive singer with a very pure tone warmed with a slight vibrato that would indicate some voice training back when – certainly he has no problems negotiating his material without accompaniment, holding the keys and the individual forms of the songs with ease. Interestingly, his voice has roughened slightly, a huskier edge which transmits the emotional content well and balances off the purer side of his timbre. Some singers over-emote and try to push the song along too far – Steve avoids this by keeping a certain distance yet does not allow his technical skill to overwhelm his evident love for the range of material he performs. A tricky dance to negotiate – but he is fleet of foot, as it were, and has that rare ability to get inside his music... An interesting selection: from old bangers like 'Lord Franklyn' and less well known songs (to me) 'The Jolly Butcher' and Childe Ballad 'Young Allen.' To more contemporary stuff – a Roy Harper song, 'Every Day.' Climaxing on the only encore possible, the song he is probably best known for locally, a stirring version of 'The King of Rome,' Dave Sudbury's epic celebration of working class life in Derby just before the Great War, made famous by June Tabor way back. Criticism? He maybe rushes the odd song, which is probably a sign of nerves as Steve does not perform nearly as much as he should. But that's my opinion, no more, no less... The other interesting point I noticed was that, given that majority of the crowd were probably not devotees of traditional music – or solo singing – Steve gripped his audience throughout and not just for partisan reasons. Certainly, from where I was positioned I would have noticed the odd surreptitious roll of the eyeballs or attention dropping. Of which there was none. Food for thought – maybe the old stuff is not so esoteric when given a fair chance of display? But there again – the message depends on the messenger. Tonight delivered with skill – and grace...

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